Seven days ago, we bought three fish. What was supposed to be the best idea since clippable hand sanitizer, turned into a massacre.
This easy-care pet purchase was a Pandemic distraction. Outside of Corona times, there is no way I would have owned a pet with a woman I had been dating for two months. But, it seems Corona either pauses life, or expedites it.
After I flushed the third fish down the toilet, it was time for a game of Who-to-Blame?
- Our ignorance.
- The Corona Cookoos spawned from vitamin D deficiency and lack of human contact.
- The overworked sales rep at Petco.
- A silent fish disease Cora, Rona and Carnival were suffering from before their new residence on Bleecker st.
- or me, as it was my horrible idea, so said my girlfriend once all three fish were dead.
Rona died three days ago, Cora died yesterday, and Carnival, well, he died underground in New York’s septic pipes.
I waited for the first two fish to turn belly-up before the prayer and flush. Carnival, however, had been twitching beside the tank’s ornamental Japanese temple for the last hour, seizures that say, it’s too late, fetch a box of tissues and a glass of wine. So, I did what any ethical fish owner would do and netted the palliative patient out before convulsions caused my girlfriend to run out of the apartment screaming or the fish to shit itself, preventing dignity in death.
Carnival’s last hurrah was a merry-go-round ride in a tornado of toilet water.
If I hadn’t flushed the fish prematurely, it would have died while I was out biking and Carnival would’ve spent the afternoon festering in the tank because there was no way my girlfriend could dispose of the body without hysteria worthy the death of an Insta-Famous French bulldog she’s been following for the past seven years.
In our relationship, I am the jar and wine bottle opener, light bulb changer, furniture mover, grocery bag sherpa and, more recently, a fish mortician.
Now that three fish died in five days, it’s time to blame. Sure, before becoming fish-parents, we could have googled how to raise aquatic animals, but talking to an actual human in an actual store was enticing when the only daily interaction I have is a ‘good morning’ to the pigeon that shits on the kitchen windowsill. So, we took a trip to Petco. Our ignorance is not the sole cause of death.
Downstairs amongst chameleons, puppy outfits and Ginny pigs, was a wall of tanks and hundreds of fish. I know enough about marine-life to realize a bowl and a fake plant isn’t enough to keep a fish alive, so we waited for professional help from a woman selling a chameleon to a tatted up middle aged man one steroid-shot away from hulk.
Waiting 20 minutes in a store that smells like pet food and rabbit shit is bad at the best of times, but these are the worst of times. The stores coutesy purell was empty, the fish tanks had a few end-of-day causalities getting devoured by the tank’s remaining fish, and every surface was a possible hot-house for Corona.
Finally, two minutes before store closing, the woman walked over and spat out a list of recommendations probably straight from a fish-care for dummies.
“Let the tank water sit for 24 hours before introducing fish. If you want three fish, you need at least a 5-gallon tank. You must treat the tap water, one cap of chemicals for every gallon. You’ll need pebbles-one bag. Fish food, one pinch, once a day. No more than what the fish can eat in two minutes.”
I nod, pretending I got it all but really only held onto the ‘no fish for 24 hours,’ suggestion.
I looked at the range of tanks-round, square, rectangle, black, white, shoe-box-sized, casket sized, built-in LED light show. Going home without a fish was not in my the day’s ‘Corona To Do’s,’ and would add significantly to my Corona Cookoos and inevitable conversations with the pigeon. I mean, 24 hours in the scheme of a fish’s life is minuscule, but it’s impact on my happiness on day 9 of New York’s lock down is hefty.
‘If you don’t let the tank filter through and your water treatment to work, your fish have a 50% survival rate,’ she said with judging eyes.
So, we left Petco with a 5.2-gallon tank, water treatment chemicals, premium fish food, iridescent pebbles, a fake purple plant and excitement that tomorrow we again get to talk to a real-life human and become pet-owners.
The next day, after 23.5 hours of waiting, we purchased a Japanese temple, three Mollies, and another plastic plant. Mollies, it turns out, are not drugs, but Poecilia Sphenops, a species of fish from Central and South America. The name Carnival, was not, however, picked for cultural sensitivity to a Molly whose origins stem from Brazil, but because two weeks ago, my girlfriend was texting me tipsy on caipirinhas from a street party in Rio.
We walked back from the fish store with a plastic bag ballooned with three fish, careful not to shake it on the 10 block stroll south.
At home, we let the tank filter for another hour and the fish sit in their bag on the coffee table until it was wine o’clock and phone meetings were done for the day. Surely one more hour in a confined space wouldn’t hurt and could be the perfect fish meet-and-greet time before being introduced to their new home. We wanted the fish to be friends after all and maybe make baby fish that we could give to others households on the verge of Corona breakdown.
finally, at 6 pm, we watched the three fish dart out of the bag into their new home.
Rona, the white and black speckly spent the first hour head-butting the glassy, obviously, not the smartest fish in the tank. Cora, the fiery orange runt of the batch, hid under the fake purple plant.
And Carnival, with its blue and yellow belliage body, lived up to her/his/their name, dancing around the tank eating every flake of food before the other two could get their lips to it. My Darwinian bet was that Carnival would outlive the others, but I didn’t think the hypothesis would be proved in five days.